Those familiar with the Harry Potter series know who I mean when I write, “You-Know-Who,” referencing the infamous villain. The wizarding world refers to him as that because his name evokes such deep fear. Yet Dumblebore wisely points out, “It all gets so confusing if we keep saying ‘You-Know-Who.’ I have never seen any reason to be frightened of saying Voldemort’s name,” in response to Professor McGonagall using the reference rather than the name. Dumbledore hits the truth about defeating foes: the first step involves naming it. Otherwise, as he notes, the process to overcome gets confusing.
Usually the first step in treating a medical ailment involves diagnosing the problem. Once a name gets determined, the doctor and patient can formulate and begin the proper healing process. The same steps occur with a mental illness or struggle or addiction. Especially with these harder to see issues, we tend to tell ourselves they don’t have the strength that physical ones possess. Sometimes the stigma prevents us from acknowledging the problem because we don’t want to seem weak. Yet without naming the issue, we can’t take the steps to improve it.
Dumbledore tells the highly intelligent and well respected Professor McGonagall, “My dear Professor, surely a sensible person like yourself can call him by his name?” We can ask ourselves the same question. Though denying or downplaying our or others’ problems may seem helpful, it prevents a crucial recovery step. The sensible response is to acknowledge and validate problems. This language plays into the ultimate battle of good and evil in this series. Spoiler: The adjustment in how they refer to Voldemort leads to a greater strength ultimately to defeat him. Let’s name our foes and fears so we can face them rather than hide in denial.